Posted by: mikebackup | December 8, 2012

An Advent reflection

Christmas is a time when many people realise how trapped and oppressed they are. Maybe they are trapped by grief, debt, addiction, maybe they are oppressed by partners, other relations or their place of work. Advent starts to open the door to hope and we need to think of those who need to hear this message.  Begin to think about those close to you at home or in church for who we know it isn’t going to be a happy Christmas. Then think about those you don’t know whom you know this coming month is going to be so hard. They are dreading everything about it because they will not fulfil the Christmas expectation. That expectation is false though, and we need a way to bring the true reality in because Christmas is waiting to happen in many places.

Christmas is Waiting
by Gerard Kelley

Christmas is waiting to happen.
Outside, a vacant hillside
Lies silent, strangely empty
Of any angel’s choir.
A stable waits
For bookings at the inn to multiply.
Distant Kings study charts
And keep gifts in cold storage,
While shepherds plan their memoirs
In expectancy of unexpected fame
And keep a chapter free
For miracles
A small velvet patch
In the black night sky
Stands ready to hold a new born star,
And oppressed peoples everywhere
Cling wildly to prophecy and song,
And whisper the word: Messiah.

They’ve switched on the lights
In Oxford Street,
Counting off the buying days
Like Guardsmen on parade
Shops are stocked and standing by
Revving up the engines
Of their debt-powered swiping machines
And history watchers mark another year
To start the slow count to 3000.

But here, an old man lies
In the stairwell where he fell three days ago
And no one knows.
And here a young girl loiters
In a streetlight’s unholy halo
To sell the only thing she owns
That men will pay for
And here an infant sleeps
On a sack on the hard earth floor
Where even a mother’s hand
Is empty
And there are places where Christmas
Is still waiting
To happen

Where do we start in our bringing in of this true reality? Well two interesting reflections can be made on the John Lewis advert (which ironically is designed to fulfil the false expectation). We get drawn into the narrative of this snowman battling everything to show love to his snowman wife. Then we think ‘but they are so temporary, how silly’. But then we are reminded of the Psalm –

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.

We are no better placed physically than the snowman. Despite this, we see true acts of love as meaning so much more than a hopeless transient act. They seem to open the door to the divine. If the advert reminds our imagination of that, the image of Police Officer Larry DePrimo being spotted buying shoes for a homeless person reminds our hearts.

officer

The shot was taken by Jennifer Foster, who noticed the shoeless man begging for change during a visit to Times Square. In a post on the NYPD Facebook page, Foster writes: “Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him. The officer said: ‘I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you.’

“The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put the socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching.”[1]

That leads onto the second reflection from the advert and the accompanying song – ‘The Power of Love’. The power of love is hope.

It was during a live televised interview with David Frost, that Desmond Tutu memorably distanced himself from the label of optimist. “David”, he said, “if you think me an optimist, you do not understand me at all. I am not an optimist; I am a prisoner of hope.”

The realism of hope

Optimism alone will
not survive the
advent apocalypse.
Prisoners of hope,
woven into the weft
of resurrection, are
those best placed to
defeat the despair.

Advent, heralding a
coming shot through
with pain, is no time
to hide from reality.
This is our hope: locked
into the heart of God,
we are released and
set free for joy.[2]

Prayerfully listen to it whilst contemplating the image, lyrics and poem

Feels like fire
I’m so in love with you
Dreams are like angels
They keep bad at bay
Love is the light
Scaring darkness away

I’m so in love with you
Make love your goal

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Game on burn desire
Love with tongue of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal

I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door
When you are down I’ll be around
With my death-defying love for you
Envy will hurt itself
Let yourself be beautiful
Like flowers and pearls and pretty girls
Love is like an energy
Rush inside of me

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Game on burn desire
Love with tongue of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Game on burn desire
Love with tongue of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal
Make love your goal
Make love your goal[3]

Let’s reflect further

We wait in the darkness, expectantly, longingly, anxiously, thoughtfully.
The darkness is our friend.
In the darkness of the womb, we have all been nurtured and protected.
In the darkness of the womb
the Christ-child was made ready for the journey into light.
It is only in the darkness that we can see the splendour of the universe – blankets of stars, the solitary glowings of the planets.
It was the darkness that allowed the Magi to find the star
that guided them to where the Christ-child lay.
In the darkness of the night, desert people find relief
from the cruel relentless heat of the sun.
In the blessed desert darkness Mary and Joseph were able to flee with the infant Jesus to safety in Egypt.
In the darkness of sleep, we are soothed and restored,
healed and renewed.

In the darkness of sleep, dreams rise up. God spoke to Joseph and the wise men through dreams. God is speaking still. Sometimes in the solitude of the darkness our fears and concerns, our hopes and visions rise to the surface. We come face to face with ourselves and with the road that lies ahead of us. And in that same darkness we find companionship for the journey. In that same darkness we sometimes allow ourselves to wonder and worry whether the human race is going to survive. And then, in the darkness we know that you are with us, O God, yet still we await your coming. In the darkness that contains both our hopelessness and our hope, we watch for a sign of God’s hope. For you are with us, O God, in darkness and in light.

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand (abridged)[4]

Prayer time

Lead us from that which fades to that which endures
Lead us from day’s dawning to Light eternal
Lead from tide’s turning to heaven’s ocean of love
Lead us from shore’s edge to eternal life
Lead us from serving the weakest to finding the highest[5]


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